IU Insider Blog: An offensive defense

All of a sudden the next two games become must-win variety contests for the Hoosiers. Lose another game and you'd have to win four in the Big Ten to get bowl eligible.

Unfortunately for Indiana fans, the defensive effort Saturday – or the lack thereof – was an all too familiar scene.

How many times in recent years have you seen an opponent just completely obliterate Indiana's defense?

Go back one season and you can find four examples of teams that ran for more than 250 yards against IU.

Navy, a year ago, had 257 yards rushing. Ohio State ran for 353 yards on the ground. Northwestern had 394 yards rushing. And the granddaddy of them all, Wisconsin piled on 564 yards rushing on 64 carries against Indiana last season.

So this one was 100 yards less than that. It was a mere 444 yards.

The bottom line is it's simply too much. Just when you thought Indiana could possibly be turning the corner and have a legitimate shot at having its first team to qualify for a bowl game since 2007, this happens.

OK, I know I'm getting ahead of myself there. But it's true. After the 73-point shellacking of Indiana State a week ago, and then watching the Sycamores battle Purdue to the wire Saturday, Indiana fans were beginning to buy in.

And the 35-point offensive barrage Saturday against Navy still has IU fans believing it will score a lot of points this season.

But the age old Indiana problem remains. Like the elephant in the corner of the room, the defense Saturday night looked very much like Indiana's defenses of old.

The Hoosiers will need to score 40 points per game this year for people to feel comfortable that IU can get to six wins. And Indiana may just do that. Especially with Nate Sudfeld as the starting quarterback. If there was one thing that should have been abundantly clear Saturday night it's that Sudfeld should be the quarterback for this team moving forward.

So what do Indiana fans have to look forward to? A bunch of 45-41 games this season? Or can the Indiana defense take some necessary steps when it doesn't have to play gimmicky triple-option attack like it faced Saturday against Navy?

The reality as I see it is that there are at least three games on the Big Ten schedule that Indiana can win. But if you're thinking three is the magic number that means you have to go 3-1 in the non-conference games. That will mean beating a good Bowling Green squad next week and a solid Missouri team the following week.

And based on Saturday night's defensive effort I'm not sure there are many Indiana fans who are willing to go there.

I'm not sure if I had actually taken a seat on the Indiana bandwagon. I certainly hadn't gotten comfortable that's for sure. I felt like the Navy game was going to be a big test in that regard. I expected Indiana to win, and possibly to win by 14 or more, but I certainly wasn't expecting a defensive mess like the one that transpired.

All of a sudden Bowling Green becomes a huge game on the schedule for Indiana. The Hoosiers will need to right the ship against a really good MAC team. Win that game and the momentum could return. Lose next Saturday and things will get interesting really fast in Bloomington.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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